The Cost of Disinformation
by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter, September 7, 2021
As of yesterday, Governor Ige signed an executive order clearing liabilities to health care facilities for the rationing of care during this pandemic. That just made my heart sink a thousand times. It also means health care providers are going to have to make the decision on who has the highest chance of surviving to receive care. That is no decision anyone who took an oath to care for people wants to make.
Why have we reached this point? How did we get here?
As a pro-science advocate, the writing was on the wall for a very long time. As much as politicians caved to the squeaky wheels who crafted the anti-ag laws over the last 15 years, this was bound to happen. Hearing after hearing, the least informed made so many false claims and none could ever be corroborated with data. Like a virus, that same disinformation was repeated over and over until it was believed as fact. Not one politician asked these testifiers for evidence ever. Even our former Department of Education Superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, fell for the anti-glyphosate predatory scheme. False claims were accepted as fact to create punitive laws. The main ones hurt by this were the farmers and their reputations.
The enforcement of these laws were written up where a private party could sue for a violation for mislabeling of a GMO, very much mirroring the anti-abortion Texas law. If a papaya farmer’s product lacked a sticker to label it, a consumer could sue that farmer for $1000 and court costs for each item. The state would not be the enforcer but consumers would be through litigation. It was like a job security jackpot for lawyers. Fortunately for us, it did not advance here.
I truly wish that our Hawaii legislators had the guts to stick with evidence based laws from a long time ago. They flirted with anti-vaxx laws and raw milk shares. The fact that the anti-GMO laws made it to the legislature allowed the disinformers to be legitimized in the public’s eye. Legions of backyardeners bolstered their claims through repeating false information.
Our educational system has also failed us when an adult can’t think critically when faced with disinformation. I suspect it has to do with the issue of false equivalency. My oldest daughter hated doing debates on vaccines and GMOs because she knew that evidenced based info was highly lacking in the anti side yet was presented as facts. High school kids who were not taught how to research science based information were flirting with those tales that sucked folks into simply believing it without asking questions. My daughter just despised listening to the ridiculous claims from her own classmates. Instead of debate, there should be instructions on how to research claims as well as teaching kids how the scientific process operates to provide knowledge instead of propaganda.
I have seen countless uneducated comments on COVID related stories where so many make these outlandish claims leading me to ask for evidence. I find it horribly sad when I get some off the wall YouTube video or link to some crank posted as evidence. It gets me even more angry when I see so many of my own classmates posting fake links spreading it among others. Critical thinking and an actual desire to learn has been lost in society and those who are educated and experts in their fields are ridiculed and called shills and sheep.
So what is the cost of disinformation? Lives are being cut short and quality of life is on a downward trend because someone chose to listen to the Aloha Freedom Coalition with their anti-vaxx and anti-mask attitudes. There is no freedom when you cannot breathe nor will you have a choice with what treatments your body undergoes. You will have zero choices on whether you live or die because a doctor will decide if you’ll make it. You are also denied any freedom to have your loved ones around. Your choice has forced you to be in a very lonely situation.
From this day on, I hope our politicians realize the need to support evidence based laws and be responsible for the information shared with the public. As we have seen, disinformation is deadly and highly infectious much like the delta variant. There has been great damage done to our communities right now where so many have died or maimed by COVID.
Right now, we need science more than ever to get through this pandemic. Follow the scientific data in your everyday lives from getting vaccinated, washing hands, and masking up. We as a community have to work together to overcome this pandemic.